Clean air agencies wary of states opting out of EPA CO2 plan

National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA) Executive Director William Becker said June 5 that he is wary of states taking a “just say no” approach to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan as some have advocated.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and others have said that states should “stand down” and not draft a plan.

When states opt out, it “triggers a federal plan, which no stakeholder — including the power sector — prefers,” Becker said in prepared remarks for a gathering in Washington, D.C.

Direct federal implementation of the EPA Clean Power Plan leads to less flexibility and, therefore, higher compliance costs, Becker said. Such a development “discards the thoughtful input stakeholders have been sharing with states over the past year,” said the NACAA official.

The event also included leaders of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO). The session, sponsored by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) was broadcast on C-SPAN.

EPA proposed its Clean Power Plan for existing generating sources in June 2014. It calls for states to draft implementation plans to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) 30 percent by 2030.

The final rule is expected out later this summer. Various legal challenges have already been filed. Some members of Congress, who oppose the EPA plan, have endorsed the idea having states simply not draft a carbon reduction plan.

“We understand the politics that are going on in states or communities,” Becker said. “Until and unless this program is curtailed in any manner, this is the law,” Becker said.

NACAA recently published a 400-page-plus document that advises states on various means to achieve compliance. The NACAA document is meant to help states so they “won’t have to start from scratch,” on compliance, Becker said.

The various steps can include such things as improving coal quality, fuel switching, reducing losses in transmission and distribution system and increasing clean power requirements.

“I don’t want to create the impression that complying with the requirements will be a slam dunk,” Becker said. But even states that are actively opposing the Clean Power Plan as written are also working on how to comply if the rule is not thrown out.

Also during the program, NASEO Executive Director David Terry said there is currently a booming business in improving building efficiency. There are also opportunities “in the industrial space,” Terry said.

NASEO is working on various “no regrets” options that can help reduce CO2. These will be “packaged programs” that states can use if the Clean Power Plan moves forward, Terry said. NASEO wants to help states “capture the least cost approaches,” he added.

NARUC Executive Director Charles Gray stressed that his organization includes states members both who oppose and advocate the EPA Clean Power Plan. Once the final rule proposal comes out, NARCU members are likely to be focused acutely on reliability and affordability.

Gray noted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) letter to EPA advocating a reliability “safety valve” for the plan.

The NARUC official noted that his organization and the Eastern Interconnection States’ Planning Council (EISPC) recently published a document designed to assist states interested in pursuing regional compliance with the EPA CO2 plan.

Gray said that a number of states, including some who oppose the EPA CO2 plan, are investigating regional approaches. Some researchers have also rolled out a “Ëœhybrid’ approach between a state-specific and a regional plan.

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Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 22 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants.

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